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The Glosa Killer App

William T. Branch ("William T. Branch" <bill@...>) on March 22, 2006

Hello Glosa-pe,

I have been thinking a lot lately about IALs and Glosa in particular. I believe the reason IALs have been relatively unsuccessful including Esperanto, is that there is not a good practical reason for learning them except for the pure pleasure or to “scratch an itch” so to speak. I think there is a parallel here between any IAL and a gaming console or early micro-computer without any applications. Nobody wants to spend the time to write a game unless there are several people who have the console and nobody wants to have a console with no games. In order for the first software piece to be successful, it needed to be so good, that people were willing to buy the console to get the game. In other words, the price of the game from the perspective of the consumer is the price of the game plus console. This first app is the “Killer App”. All other apps afterword could be mediocre in comparison and still sell, because once everybody has the two-hundred dollar console, they could afford the extra twenty bucks for a cheap game. I think IALs are in the same predicament. They are a neat idea, but hardly anyone else knows how to speak one. If an IAL is to ever become generally popular at all, I think it will need the equivalent of a killer app. What this implies is that the IAL which will win in the market of IALs is not necessarily the one that is most popular now, Esperanto. Its market share is still a fraction of a percent of what is possible and therefore all languages are on equal footing in light of the “killer app” paradigm. Just like in the early mini-computer industry, the winners weren’t the ones that were the most popular in the beginning as was the Altair or commadore, but rather the ones that delivered the killer app first. In the IAL world, no killer app has ever been found for an IAL yet and thus the relative obscurity. If an IAL killer app exists, it must be so useful, that people will invest the time to learn the language just for this one use without any regard for the fact that they will ever get any other use out of it. Here are a few Ideas for an IAL killer app, the last of which could only apply to Glosa and Glosa alone(or a very Glosa like language):

  1. a multi-national company or department within a company needing to join efforts to complet a project that will take a year or more. An example might even be the department I work in at Texas Instruments here in Texas (of course). We have various satellite groups in various countries which are part of our department. This practice is growing industry wide and the cost of mis-understandings is high. I can tell you from many actual experiences that days are wasted on a big project because the nuances of communication get lost in translation. Most the people I have dealt with over-seas know English pretty well for a non-native, yet will mis-understand the simplest of emails. Because they are in a different time-zone, it isn’t tell the next day when I hear back from they, that I realize they didn’t understand what information I was requesting. At this point, I very carefully and redundantly, using the most simple English, re-write my request; two days wasted on a very hot project. I think any IAL that is easy to learn would be a benefit in a similar situation where a group of engineers from two or more languages are thrown together to work on a long term project. However if a number of engineers from one of the languages also have a passing knowledge of the other, an IAL probably isn’t the answer, or at least would be a tougher sell. In my company we work with more and more Mandarin Chinese speakers on a regular basis. We are even being encouraged to pick up some Mandarin. Because of this, Glosa is a definite winner here because both English and Chinese are syntax languages. The idea that Esperanto would be better here because thousands or millions more speak it doesn’t fly for two reasons. First, what presumably matters to our company is what will get the job done most efficiently for the projects on hand NOW. Nobody in the local area effected by the decision to use an IAL will know ANY IAL and thus they’re all on equal footing. Secondly, Esperanto is highly inflected which is very foreign to Chinese speakers and only a little more familiar to English speakers.

  2. Pen Pal language. I know it seems insulting to sell one’s pride and joy as a toy language or Pen-Pal language when it can be so much more. But the point is that Glosa and other like languages can be easily used for just such a thing for children in schools where there are not the time nor resources to learn a full fledged natural language. Glosa gets the job done in one school year. Kids can quickly use it with a look up table for the vocabulary at first and write several letters in the first semester. There is no thought here that they will ever need it again. It is a “throw away” language. If a language is sold in these simplistic terms as opposed to the Grand Ole Multinational World Peace Auxiliary Language angle, I think more people will actually bite. The first telphones were not selling very well when the salesmen were blowing people away with the fact you could call someone all the way on the other side of the continent. One clever salesman got the ball rolling when he told housewives they could talk to their next door neigbors without ever having to put on their slippers.
  3. Secret diary language This is where the fact that the language is unknown very well works in its favor. Of course this probably won’t be a big seller.

  4. Intermediate language for real time translations between small vocabulary sets of all other languages for written communication. That was a mouthful I know. This is the one where only a language such as Glosa could be used. This Idea occured to me as I was pondering Robin’s GAS system. It is quite simple really. People desiring to communicate via HTML or email or real-time text messaging could use a set of tools that are Glosa aware and they can do it in a modified vocabulary of their own native language. It works like this: An XML file is created with the Glosa Centra vocabulary as well as a table showing one corresponding word for each other language that is used including symbols such as Chinese characters. This can be expanded with time to include more and more languages. Everyone wishing to communicate internationally would have this file somewhere on their system. Obviously, we’re a long way from reliable translators. This system does not translate. The users would be required to use the Glosa syntax. The words they use from their own vocabulary must match in concept to the corresponding Glosa word. Where there is no direct match, the closest word is chosen and the user would only have to memorize how these words are used in the Glosa context. For instance, an English speaker would not need to memorize that “bombus” means bumblebee but would learn to put the word “multi” in front of all plural nouns to make them plural. In this way there is a “glosa” for every language and it is drastically easier to learn. The only real difficulty is learning what words are and are not part of the modified vocabulary. There may be various ways of dealing with this in the sofware by having it warn the user they are using a word not recognized and suggesting alternates, or by expanding the XML to allow for synonyms. If alternate words can be used in the input, there is still only one output in Glosa, and thus when the user reads what they wrote after translation, they may go back and modify a few words. After a little practice, and after reading the work of several others, anyone can quickly get aquainted with the final output vocabulary. In languages where sentence order varies from Glosa, a more advanced second generation form of the software should be able to use the GAS system to re-order the words. Although most people at first would be unaware the Glosa was being used underneath the hood to power their communication, it would be a small step to pick up the vocabulary in order to verbally speak with others who have familiarity with this communication method and have also learned the Glosa vocabulary. Here are some uses for this system: A. A personal space web page network much like except it is international. HTML files would have a Glosa tag indicating to the Glosa helper app to translate it to the user’s vocabulary. An unaware browser would only show the Glosa text. B. interlanguage emails. You can write emails in the “glosa” of your own language. The software translates it directly to Glosa and anyone with a Glosa aware email reader can read it, even if they don’t know Glosa. C. All web pages using the methods in A. D. Documents or Books in PDF files. A typeset document such as a book has it’s input from the users “glosa”. The final electronic file exists as a Glosa typeset document such as a TEX file. This can be generated dynamically into the language of the user into a PDF file when they open up a PDF viewer. E. Rapidly learn Glosa for spoken communication. At some point, people who rely on the above methods of communication may want to take it to the next level and verbally communicate with others. With the syntax and vocabulary concepts learned with use, all that awaits is the vocabulary. All the tools are already in place to do this easily with the foundation set with A-D. The user can set a parameter in their translator to allow a level of words to stay in Glosa. The parameter might look like 300:15 meaning the first 300 words in the vocabulary list should appear in Glosa with the last 15 of this set (286-300) showing both Glosa and “glosa” side by side. As the user become more aquainted with the Glosa words, they up the number in their viewer till they are at 100% Glosa. This can be done passively over a few months of viewing web pages, reading emails and printing PDFs for offline reading. After this they may communicate verbaly with anyone who has done the same. F. Learn other languages. Learning Glosa would be a snap with this infrastructure in place. Learning another foreign language would be more difficult because of the grammar and extended vocabulary as well as the inflections. This infrasture however would allow for a simple method of aquiring another language. Using the techniques in E, one could adjust the vocabulary back from Glosa to another language in the same way they did before but in reverse. Within months the user will know the “glosa” of the foreign language, which to a native speaker will sound like a pidgin variant, but will be understandable with some effort. After this, the user can continue their education independently. This method will have given them a boost. If Glosa-pe were to write Grammars and Vocabularies for each native language, the student could refer directly to that for further instruction. The advantage of this is that Educational material can be written once in Glosa for a particular language after which, anyone from a Chinese speaker to a French speaker could refer to it in the “glosa” of their own tongue to help in the learning process. ** Remember that in all the above cases, the final electronic documents are all in Glosa and readable directly by Glosa-pe. The XML vocabulary file is only used at the input stage and output stage. It will also take some effort to learn to write in the Glosa way. Contrarily, reading “glosa” can be done almost immediately with no prior knowledge at all. It may look like pidgin to a native speaker but they will understand the content and with more then a passing aquantance, they will be able to understand it very well as they get the Glosa grammar down. This will be the strong point in writing Glosa content as anyone in the world can read what you’ve written if they’re literate in their own language. The reason this can only be implemented in Glosa is that other IALs (save a small few) have inflection as opposed to syntax coding. This means if someone tried to implement this in Esperanto, they would have to hack out the grammar coding in favor of only roots. Now without grammar coding in the words, it would have to be put back in the syntax or word order. They may agree to a SVO system and plural markers, etc. Eventually, they will end up with a “glosa” The XML file would look almost the same as well.

Anyway, it’s late here in Texas at 1am. I’ll call it a night. Regards, Bill

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The Glosa Killer App - Committee on language planning, FIAS. Coordination: Vergara & Hardy, PhDs.